The Groves Report - September 2019

Page 1

September 2019

Billy Johnson, founder and president of Amberwood Homes, says he truly loves his job. See more on page 24.

A third of Mesa’s new school buses need drivers

Dreamland Villa resident searching for camera’s owner

By Jordan Houston

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Mesa Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Scott Thompson said it’s important to hire more drivers as soon as possible. (Photo courtesy Mesa Public Schools)

Mesa Public Schools bought 150 new buses for the new school year, thanks to voter approval of a bond issue last November. But 50 can’t be used yet because the district has no one to drive them. Although bus driver shortages are plaguing districts across the East Valley, Assistant Superintendent Scott Thompson said it’s important to fi ll these roles as soon as possible. Not only is it crucial for ensuring students make it to school on time, but filling the jobs eases the burden on existing drivers, who have to cover multiple bus routes, he said.

Buses...continued on page 11

This is one of the photos saved on a camera found by Bridget Montoya at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home. (Photo courtesty Bridget Montoya)

Bridget Montoya likes to peruse the goods at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home’s thrift store. One trinket she found, however, has piqued her curiosity. Digging through unpriced goods, Montoya found a digital camera that was most likely donated to the store—with an SD card holding 219 photographs, most of which are dated 2010 and 2011. “That little camera caught my eye,” said Montoya, a Dreamland Villa resident. “It was still in its little case. It was probably used for a time, but everybody has cellphones. I was messing with it to make sure it worked. I brought it home and

Camera...continued on page 13

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Vice President........................ Michael Hiatt Executive Editor............................ Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Graphic Designer ....... Tonya Mildenberg Administration ............ Courtney Oldham Staff Writers Jordan Houston, Octavio Serrano, Natalie Urquiza, Jim Walsh

Contributing Writers Casey Blake, Jan D’Atri, Shannon Maki,

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Care Crisis” with attorney Francisco Sirvent, principal, Keystone Law Firm Doors open at 8:45 a.m. with informational visits with professional service providers offering resources. The speakers begin at 9:15 a.m. Sponsored by Visiting Angels East Valley, this free, full-day conference includes lunch and a complimentary adult day program for care partners at Oakwood Creative Care, which is located next door. To register, call 480-8338247 or email recep@visitingangelsaz. com. To make arrangements for adult day care, call 480-641-7644 or email The Red Mountain Multigenerational Center is located at 7550 E. Adobe Street, Mesa. NNM

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Mesa schools revising counselors’ role By Jordan Houston

Continuing its ongoing efforts to address students’ mental health needs, Mesa Public Schools is adding a new counselor model to better serve its students. The district is incorporating the American School Counselor Association National Model, a “best-practice approach” that hones in on a combination of academic support, social-emotional learning and post-secondary planning. Up to now, explained Director of Opportunity and Achievement Michael Garcia, the district left it up to individual schools and counselors to operate in the way they felt was best. “One of the things we have the challenge of doing in Mesa is we’re large— so to provide invaluable services to our students, we have to have systems in place,” he said. “We can’t do our best work if there is not a system guiding this work.” Garcia told the school, board recently that Mesa is among the top 10 cities

in the country to have experienced the highest increase in poverty rate since 2010. More than 81,000 Mesa residents, and nearly 14,000 families, are considered to live in poverty. On top of this, the East Valley is seeing the highest teen suicide rate in the state. “There is a great demand for raising awareness of what counselors actually do and what their role is,” Garcia said. “Today, counselors should be an integral part of collaborating with teachers and leadership.” Garcia said the model is particularly effective because it expands the role of a counselor beyond a one-dimensional format. “Counselors previously weren’t given the mission to support social emotional needs. It wasn’t formally what they were being asked to do,” he explained. “And then the elementary schools were doing a great job at supporting those social-emotional needs, but not as good



of a job for the academic needs.” He said up to now, “counselors might have been hyper-focused on one of the three areas—whether it was social emotional learning, academic support or post-secondary support.” Under ASCA, counselors will not only focus on tasks such as fi nding college scholarships or writing letters of recommendations, but they will also work alongside teachers in teaching core curriculum in classrooms. How they fulfi ll these roles though, will vary on the specific needs of each school. “Ideally, we will have our counselors go to work with teachers and principals and develop a plan for what their counseling model looks like through counselor-administrator agreements,” he said. “Which will clarify what percentage of time the counselors are going to be spending on specific tasks—their plan is going to be different for every school.” “That is the magic in the ASCA model, it’s based on the actual needs of the community,” Garcia added. “A school where we have a high degree of drug use in the homes might require a completely different program compared to a campus where bullying is an issue.” The ASCA website outlines examples of “appropriate” counselor services, such as tailored counseling for students who are tardy or absent, collaborating with teachers to present school counseling core curriculum lessons, analyzing grade-point averages in relationship to achievement, interpreting student records, providing teachers with sug-

gestions for classroom management and providing individual and smallgroup counseling services to students. The district has already added 37 new elementary school counselors—a move Garcia considers a major win. “Every student at every age—in fact, every human at every age—has needs that need to be supported,” said the director. “Although we do our best to prepare our teachers to meet those needs in the classroom, counselors have a higher degree of expertise in these areas and can provide mentorship and guidance.” “They have the ability because they do not have a class to be responsible for.” The ASCA model will be implemented throughout a two-year rollout. By the 2021-2022 school year, all school counselors will be expected to have the “prerequisite skills” to effectively run their own programs without intervention from the district, Garcia explained. The ultimate goal, he continued, is to have counselors ready to apply for the Recognized ASCA Model Program, a prestigious recognition program for individual schools. “RAMP means outside evaluators will come in and evaluate our counseling programs,” Garcia said. “If a school becomes a RAMP school, then it’s distinguished among some of the stronger counseling programs in the country.” While additional counselors are not going to “cure everything,” concluded Garcia, they are a “piece to the puzzle” in terms of producing healthy, happy students.

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esa Public Schools currently has 23 A+ Schools of Excellence™, more than any other district in the state. Quality, competitive schools are a primary reason we enjoy such a safe, family-friendly community. Here is why you should support Mesa Schools: ✔Attract jobs: Schools play a key part in our ability to attract jobs and economic opportunities. Businesses want to locate in communities that have safe and well-maintained schools, small class sizes, and offer quality programs.

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Protests fizzle, Mesa OKs new subdivision By Jim Walsh

A North Mesa subdivision sailed through the Mesa City Council after protests from neighbors fizzled and air quality tests determined that an asphalt plant posed no public health threat. Recently, the council unanimously approved Lehi Cove’s zoning, along with a related annexation case, after reviewing an air quality report compiled by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality earlier this summer. Lehi Cove had been placed on hold for a year after residents of another development, Lehi Crossing, deluged the city with more than 200 complaints about the nearby Vulcan Materials asphalt plant. Lehi Cove is on the north side of Thomas Road, near Val Vista Drive, while Lehi Crossing is closer to the plant, on the south side of Thomas. The DEQ report essentially found that some people were irritated by odors from the plant, but there was no evidence of any additional health risk. Misael Cabrera, director of DEQ, told the council at a June 26 study session that people often presume the worst possible scenario when they smell unpleasant odors. “I will tell you this is not uncommon. Our noses are quite good at detecting odors,” he said, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is a health risk present. “We actually did a very thorough monitoring event,” Cabrera said, noting the levels of dust and smoke were well below standards set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. “We did not exceed any health-based guidelines,’’ he said. “The probability of a health impact in this neighborhood or in any future neighborhood is probably low.’’ Cabrera’s department reached this conclusion after five days of monitoring in late April and early May, during which the plant was in operation for two days. A map showed the maximum amount of emissions directly to the north and west of the plant, but they still did not rise to level of endangering health. The readings were lower at the Lehi Cove site. A staff report to the city council said that residents filed 214 complaints from June 2018 to June 2019, prompting the city to seek assistance from DEQ. 8

Mayor John Giles said the DEQ report was vital to determine if Vulcan’s operation threatened Lehi Crossing residents, and if the city would be compounding the problem by approving Lehi Cove. A real estate web site listed several houses that were built in Lehi Crossing this decade with prices in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. Pricing for Lehi Cove has not been determined. “This zoning case has been on hold for about a year because I and other council members wanted some data,’’ Giles said.

I don’t think there is anything unsafe. We feel very good about the property. - Bryan Morganstern, Sky Bridge Companies

The delay was necessary, he said, to take the issue “beyond the emotional level.’’ Beyond the policy issue of whether to approve the annexation and zoning, Giles said he was concerned on a personal level because his daughter, his three grandchildren and his son-in-law live in Lehi Crossing, but not immediately adjacent to the plant. “I think it’s an odor problem,” Giles said, when asked about the large number of complaints. “Odors and something that will make you sick are two different things.” At the June meeting, City Council member Jen Duff expressed concerns about odors. “I think odors are more disturbing. If you walk into a room and there is an odor you don’t like, it sets the tone,” Duff said. But Duff said her concerns were answered by the DEQ report and that she also was pleased that Vulcan voluntarily made improvements aimed at becoming a good neighbor. Traditionally, the bucolic North Mesa area was known for its row upon row of orange and grapefruit trees, but the citrus industry has gradually declined, and development created more potential for conflict between new residents and Vulcan, which has been in operation for 17 years.

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“Although Val Vista (plant) is in compliance with all laws and regulations and is considered by local, state and federal regulatory officials to be protective of public health and safety, we made a commitment to make improvements,” Vulcan said in a statement. These improvements included the elimination of aggregate crushing and screening during night hours, shifting operations away from nearby homes and hiring a team of engineers to recommend ways of eliminating odors. The Alabama-based company said it is planning to install new “air capture systems,” and to install new tank controls to reduce the release of vapors. The operation essentially is an open pit mine used for the manufacture of asphalt. Bryan Morganstern, a managing member of Sky Bridge Companies, the developer of Lehi Cove, praised Vulcan’s efforts and said he is relieved that Mesa finally granted the zoning approvals. He said Lehi Cove will have 89 attached homes, with three to five units per building. Work is scheduled to start within 30 days and it will probably take about a year to build out the development. The units will be just under 2,000 square feet and will feature three bedrooms. The terms of the zoning case’s approval require Sky Bridge to notify potential buyers that there is an asphalt plant one-quarter of a mile away. “I don’t think there is anything unsafe. We feel very good about the property,” Morganstern said. Although there was a substantial delay, he said the DEQ report was critical in breaking an impasse on the case. “That was the only way we were going to get the city of Mesa to approve us,” Morganstern said, adding that he was relieved by the council’s decision. “We’re grateful for Vulcan stepping up and making some changes. Everyone went beyond the call of duty.” Morganstern said he anticipates that Lehi Cove’s buyers will be mostly young couples looking for a value, who will be lured by the nearby freeway access. “I think it will be first time homebuyers who want to live the area,’’ he said. “Hopefully, we didn’t miss the market.” September 2019

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EMERGENCIES SEEN SAME DAY A AY CALL TODAY! Ostriches from Chandler’s ranch were eventually killed by the Spanish influenza. (Photo courtesy Mesa Historical Museum)

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In the early 20th century, ostrich feathers were the hot commodity, and even Mesa jumped on that bandwagon. One of Arizona’s most well-known ostrich farms was run by A.J. Chandler in Mesa. In the early 1900s, Chandler brought ostriches to his ranch with the intent of being the area’s largest ostrich owner. At the turn of the century, ostrich feathers were highly valuable. A plume went for $30 and high-quality feathers could sell for as much as $250 a pound. In today’s currency, that would be roughly $800 and $7,000, respectively. The plumes were popularly used for embellishments on women’s hats. Chandler’s ostrich farm also became a popular destination for winter tourists who

wanted a glimpse of the exotic birds, sometimes even attempting to ride them. By 1914, when World War I broke out, the ostrich trade came to a halt. Americans were urged to help with the war effort, and spending on frivolous clothing items was no longer a priority. The flamboyant clothing and feathered hat trends also went away. Due to the war and the fashion changes, the price of ostrich feathers plunged. To make matters worse for Chandler and his ostrich farm, the Spanish influenza ravaged the nation, and it killed most, if not all, of Chandler’s ostriches. Chandler was convinced, however, that the ostrich feathers would be in style again, so he kept a large collection of them in his basement.

New exhibit Want to learn more about style and craftmanship from early Mesa? Visit the Mesa Historical Museum’s exhibit, “Stitching Mesa Together: Community Through Making,” which runs September 14 to January 4, at 2345 N. Horne, Mesa. • Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday. • Admission is $5 adults; $4 seniors 65 and older; $3 youth younger than 21; free for children younger than 3; $3 for groups of 10 or more; and free for members. • For more information, visit 10

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September 2019

“Right now, most of our drivers we’re dealing with are driving full time plus overtime,” Thompson said of what are normally part-time positions. The district has changed the start and end times at almost all of its schools—with some starting as early as 7:30 a.m.—to compensate for the shortage. Most times, though, have only been adjusted by 10 to 15 minutes. “We have taken start times and switched to a three-tiered system,” Thompson said. “Past schedules meant most drivers could deliver only to two schools because of the school times.” “Having less people delivering more kids has helped with the shortage.” While bus driver shortages in Arizona districts are not new, Thompson said it’s hard to pinpoint an exact cause for the deficit. “Right now, there is a national bus driver shortage – it’s not unique to Mesa or even to Arizona,” he said. “This is happening across the country and there is a lot of speculation.” Competition from the other districts is one factor, Thompson explained. Meeting the requirements of the 2016 voter-approved minimum wage referendum is another. MPS has increased drivers’ pay by $1.50 this year, but they still only earn slightly above minimum wage. “The primary thing for us is that the minimum wage increase is making it hard for us to maintain a minimum wage for our classified employees, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers,” he previously said. Come January, the minimum wage will increase to $12 per hour. The only way for the district to attract future bus drivers, Thompson expressed, is to pass a 15% budget override this November. “Without the override, it would be extremely difficult for us to make any serious adjustments to the hourly rate we’re paying our drivers,” he said. “The override is our only chance to be competitive with our hourly rate. Ours is anywhere from $1 to $2 below many of the districts around us—but those districts also have 15% overrides and we only have 10.” MPS has been operating under a September 2019

10% budget override since 1995 but needs an additional 5% to stay afloat. So, it will ask voters to approve the override in November—a year after it was sunk by voters at the same time its bond issue passed. The override would provide $54 million per year for the next five years, and then phase down by one-third each in the sixth and seventh years. The additional cost to property owners would equal $5.17 per month, or $62 per year, per $100,000 of assessed valuation. Thompson attributes last year’s the failure—the fi rst in Mesa since the first override was approved in 1995— to confusing ballot language. The override election lost by about 2,600 votes. If the budget increase does not pass this time around, the district must cut $37 million from the budget over the next three years—a serious blow to not only bus drivers’ salary, but employees across the board. “At this point the override not passing (in last year’s election) has not impacted us yet,” Thompson said. “But if we’re not successful this coming November, we will be implementing a one third of the overall override cut, which is about a $12.5 million cut over three years.” Overall, Thompson said the community has been “understanding” of the district’s efforts to accommodate the bus driver shortage, which often becomes more acute in a good economy, when people can find better paying jobs. But he encourages people to apply to be bus drivers because it is meaningful work. “While the wages aren’t as competitive as we’d like them to be, we still have a lot of people driving for us and they fi nd a great satisfaction about being a part of kids’ lives,” Thompson said. “They have a big influence on a kid’s day,” he continued. “I don’t think people understand the job satisfaction they get from being a big part of kids’ lives and contributing to the education of kids throughout the community.” The override election will take place on November 5 and is a mail-ballot only. Voters must be registered by October 9.


Buses...continued from page 1









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WhizKidz Preschool Grand Opening WhizKidz, a play-based curriculum preschool, celebrated the grand opening of its Mesa location, 4909 E. Brown Road, in early August. The family-friendly event featured Kona Ice, princess visits and school tours. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce welcomed the school to the neighborhood. WhizKidz has locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale. Info: hearsay

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1. Isla Blair and her father, Michael, play an instrument with Tammy Copeland of Melody Makers. Copeland visits the school at least once a week. 2. Jasmine Romero, an island princess, Jacqueline Rena and Yelena Rena chat during the grand-opening celebration. 3. Officials celebrate the opening of WhizKidz with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. 4. Daniel Picciao-Mazor, son of WhizKidz founder and CEO Martha Picciao-Mazor, adds flavor to his snow cone. 5. Tammy Copeland of Melody Makers visits WhizKidz at least once a week.


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September 2019

New Frontiers hosting its fall open house

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

The city of Mesa has received more than $1.3 million in grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a Falcon Field improvement project. It accounts for 91.06% of total project estimated costs. (Photo by Ivan Martinez Photography)

Construction is slated to begin this fall at the city of Mesa’s Falcon Field Airport on two acute angle taxiway exits that will allow pilots to exit the airport’s north runway (Runway 4L/22R) more quickly and safely. The improvements will also help air traffic controllers to more efficiently manage aircraft traffic at the nation’s fifth most active general aviation airport. The taxiway exists are part of Falcon Field’s eight-year capital improvement program. Currently aircraft can only exit the north runway in the middle or at both ends. This project will improve operational safety and efficiency by allowing aircraft to exit the runway more quickly after landing using the two new exits. Combs Construction Co. was awarded the construction contract by the Mesa City Council at its August 26 meeting. “The city continuously plans for upgrades to the airport’s facilities to ensure a pleasant experience for our cus-

tomers,” said Airport Director Corinne Nystrom. “Part of this experience is being able to land quickly upon entering Falcon Field airspace. These new exits will enable aircraft to move quickly from the runways after landing to accommodate incoming arrivals.” The city has received more than $1.3 million in grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the project, which accounts for 91.06% of total project estimated costs. The city also has applied for a $61,239 construction grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT). It accounts for approximately 4.47% of total project costs. Falcon Field will fund the remaining approximately 4.47% of project costs. Design of the project was funded with an ADOT grant. “We are fortunate to be awarded this FAA grant funding,” Nystrom said. “We are eager to begin construction with minimal inconvenience to our customers.”

Camera...continued from page 1 found someone had left their SD card in there.” The photos appear to be taken on a vacation to the Alamo as well as a military graduation. Montoya speculates the camera was part of an estate donation and wonders if the family knew the card was in it. “There were a couple ladies who dominate most of the photos,” she said. “They’re taking pictures in front of difSeptember 2019

ferent canyons and things like that. “I felt kind of bad. Someone probably passed away and their family packed up their stuff and donated it over there. Both of the women are older ladies. I thought if they took it to Sunshine Acres, someone in this vicinity would know who it was and might want the photos.” Anyone with information, can email


Federal grant helps Falcon Field Airport improve safety

New Frontiers for Lifelong Learning which gives access to campus and will host its fall open house from 1 community discounts. to 3 p.m. Friday, September 20, at the Fees are $80 a year or $60 for each Mesa Community College Dobson Campus’ Library, Room 145. New Frontiers for Lifelong Learning is a peer-led, self-directed organization of more than 400 members operating under the sponsorship of Mesa Community College. Classes usually meet once New Frontiers for Lifelong Learning members receive a for one to two and a Mesa Community College student identification card, which half hours. There are no gives access to campus and community discounts. (Photo courtesy New Frontiers for Lifelong Learning) tests, grades or credits. Classes meet at various MCC cam- semester. After enrolling at the open puses and other community locations. house, members can register for as Other social opportunities such as many classes as they like. tours, lunches, traveling, concert, outRegistration begins September 24 door hiking and theater productions online. For more information, call are also available. Members are given 480-461-7497 or visit newfrontiers. an MCC student identification card,

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The Valley will soon welcome Great Wolf Lodge resort By Octavio Serrano With electronic devices dominating dinners and vacations, Great Wolf Lodge is aiming to bring families back together with its new location in Scottsdale. “Our goal is designed to help families reconnect and create those special memories that are really going to last a lifetime,” said Brian Johnson, Great Wolf Lodge Arizona general manager. The water-themed resort will open its doors in September with 350 rooms, a waterpark, a dry playground and restaurants. The largest attraction is the 85,000-square-foot indoor waterpark with 13 slides. Kept at 84 degrees yearround, the Great Wolf Lodge indoor water park keeps families cool during Scottsdale’s scorching summers. Great Wolf Resorts also has lodge locations in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ontario, Texas, Washington, Massachusetts, North Carolina, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Georgia and Illinois. A Great Wolf Lodge highlight is a bucket that soaks bystanders, according to Murray Hennessy, Great Wolf Lodge’s chief executive officer. “That bucket, which contains 1,000 gallons of water, will drop the water every 3 or 4 minutes,” Hennessy said. While designing Great Wolf Lodge, the staff kept Arizona in mind. An attraction is the Diamondback Drop. “It’s a first for Great Wolf Lodge, but it’s also a first for North America and indeed it’s the first of its kind anywhere,” Hennessy said. “It’s called the Diamondback Drop, and it starts with serpentine curves, some 360-degree coils and it drops them (guests) into what we call the belly of the snake.” Great Wolf Lodge’s traditional water slides have made the resorts popular 14

The Great Wolf Adventure Park is a dry playground area for those who want to take a break from the water.

with families. “We also have our classis Wolf Tail, which is like a glass tube that you stand in and after a few seconds, the floor drops away and you free fall onto a slide and then end up in the pool below,” Hennessy said. Kids who want to take a break from the water can take on obstacle courses and be part of a live-action adventure. “We have a 27,000-square-foot dry play area and it’s called Great Wolf Adventure Park,” Hennessy said. “You will find a rope course, climbing wall, mini golf, 10-pin bowling and MagiQuest, which is our in-house signature interactive game.” At MagiQuest, kids—armed with a “magic wand”—can participate in adventures like battling dragons and befriending pixies. If they don’t finish their game before checking out of the resort, they can resume when they return with their wand. Other activities include the “Moonstone Mine,” where children can be part of an interactive mining experience with

I mean that literally because cooking is my pas(Photo courtesy Great Wolf Lodge) sion and guest service is my passion,” Baker said. Campfire Kitchen serves an a la carte breakfast menu of traditional tastes like farm-fresh eggs, Applewood smoked bacon, signature wolf paw-shaped waffles and fresh fruits. Kid-friendly dinner items like mac and cheese and chicken tenders are available. Hungry as a Wolf has made-to-order handcrafted pizzas, fresh salmirrors. The “Northern Lights Arcade” ads, chicken wings, pastas and sandis an interactive video and redemption wiches. game where guests can redeem their Grown-ups can imbibe at the rustic points for prizes. themed Barnwood, with indoor and The Great Wolf Lodge rooms range in outdoor seating and an evolving menu. size from five to 13 people. The Family Cocktails, wines and craft beers will be Suite is a traditional room that sleeps available to accompany meals. up to six guests and features two queen For dessert, Great Wolf Lodge will beds and a full sofa sleeper. feature a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and The Wolf Den Suite sleeps up to seven Dunkin’ Donuts. guests and features a queen bed and a “We are excited to bring a diverse varifull sofa sleeper. The key is the Great ety of dining options to families visiting Wolf kids-themed cabin with bunk beds Great Wolf Lodge Arizona,” said Mark in their own section of the room. Nelson, food and beverage director. The Deluxe Wolf Den Suite is for larg“With an electric array of restaurants, er parties, and sleeps up to 12 guest. It dishes that address common allergies has an in-suite cave-themed sleeping and dietary restrictions, and menus area with a queen-sized bed, a private featuring fresh ingredients from local bedroom with two queen beds and two purveyors and farmers, we are confident bathrooms. family members of all ages will love the Great Wolf Lodge has put just as much culinary offerings at Great Wolf Lodge effort into the nine food offerings. Chef Arizona as much as the water slides.” Grant Baker was appointed as the exGreat Wolf Lodge Arizona ecutive chef to deliver a menu to lodge 7333 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale, guests that stays true to Arizona’s cul480-948-9653, ture. “This has always been the dream, and

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September 2019

By Laurie Struna, Mesa Public Schools Ensuring the safety and security of all teachers and staff in positive and supportive environments is a round-the-clock operation for the school safety and security and opportunity and achievement departments at Mesa Public Schools.

Developing impactful relationships

police,” Moore said. Student officer relationships are key to helping at-risk students by keeping them on the right path. These highly trained officers walk their campuses, responding to calls that include drugs, assault and any criminal activity. SROs are in classrooms, working to reduce crime by educating students about a variety of subjects that includes, consequences of drug abuse, drinking, vaping, violence and bullying, which contributes to a safe school environment. “SROs foster an environment where students and parents feel comfortable approaching and speaking with the police officers,” said Mountain View High School Principal Greg Milbrant. “Many times, sensitive information is shared that may not have been before, giving officers the opportunity to be preventative, instead of reactive.”

In classrooms and campuses, student resources officers, or SROs, play an integral part of the team and have kept students safe for more than 20 years. These fully sworn law enforcement officers are a liaison between the school and the police community and work to keep order and build relationships within the community. Allen Moore, director of school safety and security at Mesa Public Schools, said there is an assigned SRO on every junior high and high school campus. The officers work for the police department and the district reimburses the police department Strategies for creating for their salaries. “The greatest benefit of having security safe schools CARE (Crisis and Response Evaluation) officers onGroves school campuses is the bridges half pg horiz Finding Meaning Class • 09 01 2019.pdf 8/8/2019 12:08:04 PM that are built between the students and the teams implemented during the 2019-

20 school year provide schools with the tools, supports and compassion needed during stressful events. Dr. Michael Garcia, director of opportunity and achievement, shares each school CARE team consists of principals, counselors, nurses and related professionals Student Resource Officer Mike Lovell talks with students during passing periods. (Photo by Tim Hacker/Mesa Public Schools) trained to handle difficult and sensitive situations on a campus Helpful resources for that may include the loss of a student or parents and community Access to social, emotional and mental staff member, an individual expressing the potential to harm self, bullying, minor al- health resources are located on all school tercations or acts of nature on a campus. counseling websites with helpful links to Should schools express the need for addi- suicide prevention, taking people directly tional supports, a district CARE team is to additional resources for suicide prevention and where to get help. available to assist. “What’s great about these resources is q“CARE Teams know what resources to deploy and can collaborate with district that they are 24/7, so anyone can call at departments to provide schools with the any time.” Garcia said. For more information regarding suicide help they need to ensure students and staff are safe and feel supported,” Garcia said. prevention, visit suicide-prevention.

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September 2019

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‘AZ529’ launches statewide essay-writing contest By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

For the past 20 years, the Arizona Family College Savings Plan (AZ529) has helped families accumulate more than $1.9 billion in tax-deferred college savings. The organization is hosting an essay-writing competition for all fifthgrade students in Arizona. The theme of the contest is, “In 20 years I’ll change the world by…” Winners of the contest will receive $529 toward an AZ529 college savings plan. Twenty prizes will be awarded across the state. A winner will be selected from each of Arizona’s 15 counties, with an additional five awarded in Maricopa and Pima counties. More than $10,500 will be allocated to 20 youth to assist in saving for their education plans beyond high school. “Thinking about the future and planning for college is extremely vital, even for elementary school students,” said Deena Lager, director of the Arizona

Family College Savings Program. “We’re excited to celebrate our anniversary and share this essay-writing contest with fifth-graders around the state. It’s an opportunity to jumpstart their college savings by winning $529 to use toward their future goals. We want to make sure that every county is represented.” The essay-writing contest commemorates 20 years of providing a successful college savings program for Arizonans. The goal of the writing challenge is to raise awareness of the AZ529 plan and to pave a path for another generation of students to achieve their post-secondary goals through savings and preventing future student loan debt. Entries will be accepted online and through direct mail through October 31. For more information about AZ 529 visit For complete contest details and rules, visit

Friday Night Lights are here! Get your Gold Card today. Mesa Public Schools Gold Cards are free for residents 62 and older who live within MPS boundaries. Gold Cards can be used for free or reduced admission at home athletic events, theatre productions, concerts and more. Learn more at, call 480-472-1174, or apply in person at 63 E. Main St., Mesa, AZ 85201. Thank you for your continued support of Mesa Public Schools!


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September 2019

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September 2019 reel2real

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Food Truck Fridays

Enjoy more than a dozen food trucks, along with live music. When: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, September 6 Where: Las Sendas Trailhead Parke, 7900 E. Eagle Crest Drive, Mesa Cost: Free admission Info: financially speaking



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Celebrate Grandparents Day with this party at Las Sendas. When: 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. Friday, September 6 Where: Las Sendas Elementary School, 3120 N Red Mountain, Mesa Cost: Free Info:

Museum Discovery Evening

The Arizona Museum of Natural History and the i.d.e.a. Museum have partnered to bring families a new — and free — opportunity to teach their kids about Arizona’s rich history and beyond. From dinosaurs and gold mining to hands-on activities and exploratory experiences, these two museums share a lot of funfilled exhibits for parents to choose from. Enjoy a night at the museum and watch the kids expand their horizons. When: Various times Friday, September 6 Where: Arizona Museum of Natural History, 53 N. Macdonald, Mesa, or i.d.e.a. Museum, 150 W. Pepper Place, Mesa Cost: Free Info: 480-644-2468,,

Second Friday in Downtown Mesa

Every month features 50 or more artists showcasing original artwork, live bands, food vendors, entertainment, gallery openings, contests with prizes, shops and restaurants open late. When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, September 13 Where: Downtown Mesa, 1 N. Macdonald, Mesa Cost: Free Info:

East Valley Children’s Theatre’s “Frozen Jr.”

A cast of 41 youth age 8 to 18 from all around the Valley presents this Broadway hit about Elsa, Anna, and the magical land of Arendelle. A story of true love between sisters, this version expands upon the emotional relationship and journey between Princesses Anna and Elsa. When faced with danger, the two discover their hidden potential and the powerful bond of sisterhood. When: Various times September 26 to October 6

September 2019

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Enjoy 10 gourmet food trucks, live music and fun every Saturday. When: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Saturdays Where: Pioneer Park, 526 E. Main Street, Mesa Cost: Free admission Info: law talk

Where: Mesa Arts Center, NesbittElliott Playhouse, 1 E. Main Street, Mesa Cost: $15 Info:

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Museum Day

Museum Day is an annual celebration of boundless curiosity hosted by Smithsonian magazine. Join the i.d.e.a. Museum and other participating museums and cultural institutions across the country provide free entry to anyone presenting a Museum Day ticket. When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, September 21 Where: i.d.e.a. Museum, 150 W. Pepper Place, Mesa Cost: Free admission Info: 480-644-2468,

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. San Diego Padres

Enjoy the many amenities that Chase Field has to offer such as food, beverages, alcohol and sweet treats on a stick. Wearing your team colors of choice, steer clear of any foul balls and enjoy the American pastime. There are special events. Italian Heritage Night is September 24 and those with a ticket package will get a red, white and green baseball hat. September 28 is “Caturday,” which features a limited-edition jersey for those who purchase a special package. The first 20,000 guests on September 29 receive a bucket hat. When: 6:40 p.m. Friday, September 27; 5:10 p.m. Saturday, September 28; and 12:10 p.m. Sunday Where: Chase Field, 401 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix Cost: Tickets start at $16 Info: 602-514-8400,

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Arizona Donut and Ice Cream Festival

Come to The Pressroom and try donuts and ice cream from more than 15 local shops. Donuts and ice cream will be $5 or less, there will be card games and board games free to play and local artists showcasing their work. When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, September 22 Where: The Pressroom, 441 W. Madison Street, Phoenix Cost: Tickets start at $8 Info:

Free Coney Dogs at Wienerschnitzel

Wienerschnitzel is celebrating its namesake holiday, National Wienerschnitzel Day, by offering guests a free chili dog with purchase on Monday, September 9. Hot dog fans are encouraged to stop by their local Wienerschnitzel and show a coupon (printed or on a mobile device) to chow down on a free original chili dog with any purchase. When: 10 a.m. to midnight Monday, September 9 Where: Wienerschnitzel, 1225 S. Higley Road, Mesa Cost: Free with coupon from website Info: 480-830-0849, wienerschnitzel. com

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Roscoe and Ginette Smith of Queen Creek co-own Knuckle Sandwiches in Northeast Mesa.

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Knuckle Sandwiches muscles its way into Northeast Mesa comm. spotlight

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Former Schlotzsky’s Bakery and Café owner Roscoe Smith was looking to spread his culinary wings. Once he took a bite out of the independent sandwich scene, he was sold. Recently, he and his wife, Ginette, opened Knuckle Sandwiches at Brown and Higley roads in Northeast Mesa out of a “need for a better sandwich shop.” The restaurant is in the former location of his Schlotzsky’s franchise. “I decided to get out of a franchise,” said Smith, a Chicago native. “My franchise agreement was coming up to be renewed and I didn’t renew. I decided to go independent. It’s been a classifieds

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Knuckle Sandwiches 1140 N. Higley Road, Suite 103, Mesa, 480-630-4132,

rollercoaster ride, but it’s fun.” Knuckle Sandwiches opens for breakfast at 8 a.m. to serve breakfast burritos, hash browns, bagel sandwiches and parfaits. Lunch sees the “jab” (3 ounces); “hook” (6 ounces) and the knockout (9 ounces). The choices are aplenty with turkey, corned beef, BLATT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, turkey, tomato and mayo), pastrami, ham and cheese, turkey cranberry, ham melt, roast beef, hot stuff chicken, corned beef Rueben, veggie and pastrami Rueben. Some are exclusively knockouts— the meatball sub, “knuckle sandwich” (braised pot roast, swiss cheese, grilled onions and horseradish), steak sub, portobello (avocado, tomato, asiago, lettuce on two grilled portobello mushroom caps), Dagwood (ham, turkey, chicken,

cheddar, Swiss, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, green pepper, onions, coleslaw, dill pickles, olives and bread and butter pickles), and the traditional hero. “The knockout sandwiches you really can’t find anywhere else,” he said. “We have a really nice-sized meatball sub. We have the hero sub with mortadella, pepperoni, Genoa salami, capicola, provolone, mozzarella, oregano, red wine vinegar, lettuce, tomato and onion. The bread we use for those subs is really crusty on the outside and soft in

the middle. “The portobello sandwich is where we literally use the mushroom caps as bread.” Finally, there are the wraps—beef, barbecue chicken and turkey—and paninis, which include brie and apples or pears; turkey and Swiss; bacon, spinach, onion and mozzarella; turkey, basil pesto, spinach and parmesan; tomato, mozzarella and basil; five cheese; spinach, tomato, avocado and cheddar; and The Sweet! with ham, mango chutney, brie and tomato. Tuna and chicken salad sandwiches are served cold, and salads are offered as well. Kids meals are a specialty. “It was time for the neighborhood to have a change,” said Smith, who live in Queen Creek. “Schlotzsky’s has its own

Sandwiches...continues on page 19





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September 2019

By Jan D’Atri

Tuscan Butter Salmon You can pan fry it, poach it, roast it, grill it, wrap it in parchment paper or tuck it inside a square of puff pastry. Then, there is another way to prepare fresh salmon. That is seared to a beautiful golden brown and then finished off in rich, flavorful Tuscan butter sauce with cherry tomatoes, basil and fresh garlic. If you really want to get fancy, add a few jumbo shrimp to the mix and you have a delicious twist on a dinner favorite. (You’ll be serving one piece of salmon and three jumbo shrimp per serving.) This recipe is as easy as it gets, but there are always questions about how long to cook salmon. With this recipe you’ll be searing it first and then letting it continue to cook in the butter sauce for a few minutes. The USDA recommends cooking salmon to an internal temperature of 145 degrees, but some

Tuscan Butter Salmon Ingredients: - 2-3 tablespoons avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil - 4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets, patted dry with paper towels - 12 jumbo raw shrimp, washed peel with tail left on, optional - Kosher salt - Pepper - 3 tablespoons unsalted butter - 3 cloves garlic, minced - 1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half - 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped or julienned - 2/3 cup half and half - 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan - 1 lemon, sliced in wedges Directions: In a large skillet over medium-high

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(many chefs and America’s Test Kitchen included) find that 145 degrees renders the salmon overcooked and prefer an internal temperature of 125 to 130 degrees. A good general rule of thumb is to cook salmon until the center is translucent but will still flake when you put a fork to it. I love this recipe because not only do you get a really flavorful piece of salmon (and shrimp), but you also get a gorgeously rich and creamy sauce that goes beautifully next to a bed of rice or a big piece of crusty bread to scoop up “pan goodness.” heat, heat oil. Pat salmon dry and season all over with salt and pepper. Add salmon skin side up and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes. With a spatula, flip salmon over and cook 2 more minutes. (When salmon is done, you can leave the skin on or remove.) Transfer cooked salmon to a plate. Add shrimp to the skillet and cook until pink, about 3 minutes. Remove shrimp to the plate. Add butter to the hot skillet. When butter has melted, stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add cherry tomatoes and basil, stirring to combine. Add half and half and Parmesan and stir well. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until sauce thickens. Return salmon and shrimp back to skillet and spoon sauce over the top of fish. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes more. Garnish with more herbs and lemon wedges. Serve with rice if desired.

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following and a lot of people are loyal to it. “In my opinion, franchises are for people who don’t have a culinary backSeptember 2019

ground. I felt sheltered and kind of locked in. I thought there were things we could do differently or do better. But you know, you have to follow the rules.”

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Five-time world champion hoop dancer Tony Duncan will host a variety of workshops in Mesa this month. (Photo courtesy Mesa Arts Center)

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September brings change, new schedules and back-to-school events. Amid the seasonal shift, city of Mesa departments will offer a series of free artmaking workshops and demonstrations as part of the Water=Life project, a collaborative public art process focused around the history and future of water in the Valley of the Sun. The series of workshops will be led by artists collaborating to create a nine-day temporary art installation in Mesa’s Riverview Park November 16 to November 24. Participants in the workshops are invited and will have the opportunity to contribute through ideas, personal reflection or artmaking to the creation of the culminating installation. Workshops include a variety of mediphoto page


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ums in performing and visual arts and are led by renowned artists on a local and national scale, including five-time world champion hoop dancer Tony Duncan. Each workshop is free and open to people of all ages. Dates and descriptions are included below. Registration is available at or by calling 480-644-6500.

Artmaking Workshop and Demonstration with Tony Duncan

6 to 8 p.m. Monday, September 2, Mesa’s Artspace Lofts Duncan will demonstrate and teach hoop dancing techniques and share Na-

Mesa...continues on page 22

YouTubers Gonzalez, Gooden expanding reach with live shows By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski “‘Troom Troom’” are two words fans of Danny Gonzalez know well. Fellow YouTuber Drew Gooden is known for his humorous takes on society. One thing fans don’t know is what to expect when the two visit the Nile Theatre on Wednesday, September 25, as part of the “We are Not the Same Person” tour. “We want the show to incorporate the sense of humor we have in our YouTube videos with other things—music, sketches and jokes,” Gonzalez said. “We just want a bunch of stuff we don’t have in our YouTube videos. It’s a good opportunity for us to experiment with each other.” Gonzalez rose to popularity following his start on Vine and has since transitioned to garner almost 3 million YouTube followers. He has amassed almost 300 million YouTube views on all his videos. Gooden is best known for his humorous social commentary on fellow YouTubers, mainstream media, current events amassing over 130 million views on all his YouTube videos. He also took im20

prov classes before hitting the internet. Gooden’s fanbase is known as the “Little Stinkers,” after a commentary about viewers who don’t brush their tongues. Gooden is looking forward to the Nile Theatre show because his wife, photographer Amanda Murphy, is from Gilbert. The two “met” after she commented on one of his Vine videos. They got to know one another through messaging. “It’s a modern-day love story,” he said with a laugh. The two occasionally collaborate on each others’ channels, in videos like 2019’s “The World’s Hardest Flexer” (with Gonzalez) and “Exploring Facebook Marketplace” with Gonzalez (2018) on Gooden’s channel. The two agree that their success is shocking. They look back on the numbers and it’s a hard concept to grasp. “When you upload a video and there are 1 million views, that’s just a number on the screen,” Gonzalez said. “When people watch our videos, there’s no time or money commitment to do that. “For a live show, it’s an experience that people have to set aside time and money

for. It’s really flattering.” Gooden said he feels his experience with improv will help with the performances. “Before I started doing anything online, I took improv classes and was doing shows like that,” he said. “That was my first experience with anything comedic. Now I’ve come full circle, focusing again on the live theatrical thing.” Gonzalez is equally as skilled. In middle and high school, he did theater—musicals and plays. “I think we both share a love for theatrical productions,” Gonzalez said. “Making the show in this way—in an all-scripted, narrative format—is different than our videos. I’ve always loved both.” Together, the two are relatable and that’s exactly what Gonzalez and Gooden hope come across. “It’s a conscious thing,” Gooden said. “I tend to make sure I’m not complaining about things people can’t relate to. We are just average people. I’m glad that comes off. It’s weird to see YouTubers who are rich and successful just show-

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ing off the things they have. It’s hard to connect with them that way.” Gooden and Gonzalez aren’t sure what they’re going to do after the tour, as they’ve focused all their energies on this. “I like to look forward and think of where we can go with it,” Gooden said. “The live show’s coming together and I want to keep going. We’re hoping the live shows are successful as we think they will be. If so, we’ll be able to do more things and play biggest venues. That’s the real goal.”


What: “We are Two Different People Tour,” starring Danny Gonzalez and Drew Gooden w/ Kurtis Conner When: 7:30 to 11 p.m. Wednesday, September 25 Where: Nile Theater, 105 W. Main Street, Mesa Cost: $155 for Danny Gonzalez and Drew Gooden meet and greet (includes ticket) $105 for Kurtis Conner meet and greet (includes ticket) $95 for ticket/merchandise package Info:

September 2019


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Mesa...continued from page 20 tive American flute playing. Participants will also experience and participate in storytelling and story generating activities around the role of water in our lives.

Artmaking Workshop and History Presentation with Bruce Nelson and Travis Ivey

10 a.m. to noon Saturday, September 7, Save the Family Conference Room Curator and filmmaker Bruce Nelson will talk about the importance of water to the historically African-American Washington Park/Escobedo neighborhood in Mesa, and create a mini-exhibition of community water stories. Participants are requested to bring small items or photos related to their own history or relationship to water in any aspect of their lives to contribute to a community collage. Collage artist Travis Ivey will help participants make their own pieces to take home.

Artmaking Workshop and Demonstration with Therosia Reynolds and Katharine Simpson

6 to 8 p.m. Monday, September 9,


Mesa’s Artspace Lofts Music and spoken word artist Therosia Reynolds will lead a spoken word workshop and multidisciplinary visual and performance artist Katharine Simpson will help guests create small pieces out of different textiles.

Artmaking Workshop and Demonstration with Tony Duncan and Katharine Simpson

Noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, September 14, Arizona Museum of Natural History Auditorium Duncan will demonstrate and teach hoop dancing techniques and share Native American flute playing. Multidisciplinary visual and performance artist Katharine Simpson will lead participants in creating small pieces out of different textiles.

Artmaking Workshop and Demonstration with Tony Duncan

5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 18, Mesa Main Library Saguaro Room

Duncan will share his hoop-dancing techniques and Native American flute playing. Participants will also experience and participate in storytelling and story-generating activities around the role of water in our lives.

Artmaking Workshop and Demonstration with Danielle Wood and Rich Littlefield

6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, September 21, i.d.e.a. Museum Atrium Classroom Ceramic artists Danielle Wood and Rich Littlefield will aid participants in adding their own designs to pottery pieces to contribute to the Water=Life installation.

Storytelling Workshop with Liz Warren

6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 24, West Mesa CDC 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, September 28, Mesa Arts Center’s Music Studio Liz Warren, director of the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute, will host a storytelling workshop around the role of water in our lives.

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September 2019

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September 2019 events calendar

Museum Discovery Evening

The Arizona Museum of Natural History and the i.d.e.a. Museum have partnered to bring families a new — and free — opportunity to teach their kids about Arizona’s rich history and beyond. From dinosaurs and gold mining to hands-on activities and exploratory experiences, these two museums share a lot of fun-filled exhibits for parents to choose from. Enjoy a night at the museum and watch the kids expand their horizons. When: Various times Friday, September 6 Where: Arizona Museum of Natural History, 53 N. Macdonald, Mesa; i.d.e.a. Museum, 150 W. Pepper Place, Mesa Cost: Free Info: 480-644-2230,; 480644-2468, meet your neighbor

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Aesthetic Perfection

Led by Los Angeles-born producer Daniel Graves, Aesthetic Perfect brings its industrial pop to Mesa with Empathy Test, Amelia Arsenic and Relic. When: 6 p.m. Saturday, September 7 Where: Club Red, 1306 W. University Road, Mesa Cost: $18 general admission Info:

MusEffect’s “The Divine Direction Stage Show”

As school starts back up, parents and kids will undoubtedly be talking about bullying, texting while driving, self-worth and

the power of random acts of kindness. MusEffect is a nonprofit dance company from Los Angeles that puts a modern spin on these social issues to initiate important conversations. When: 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, September 7 Where: Desert Ridge High School Performance Theatre, 10045 E. Madero Avenue, Mesa Cost: $20 to $35 Info:

Second Friday Night Out: Dog Daze

Come for the dog contests featuring prizes from local merchants for best dressed dog, biggest and smallest dog, best dog trick, and dog who looks most like its owner. And Fido will want to visit the dog merchandise vendors or dine on one of our dog-friendly restaurant patios. Dog rescue groups will be on hand and there will be doggie treats, splash pools, and water stations along Main Street for the pooches. Compete in the dog-themed trivia contest and win prizes. The event also live bands, artists showcasing original artwork, entertainment, shops and restaurants. When: 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, September 13 Where: On Main Street between Center and Robson streets Cost: Free admission Info:

Kansas: The Point of Know Return

Along with constant touring, Kansas

has remained a classic rock fixture. The band has reached a whole new audience through “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero,” and its songs’ inclusion in various TV shows such as “Supernatural,” and “South Park,” and with films “Old School” and “Anchorman.” When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, September 19 Where: Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main Street, Mesa Cost: $43-$128 Info:

also features history-making title track “Girl,” which had the highest debut on Billboard’s Country Streaming Songs chart by a female artist and the highest weekly streams by a female country artist. The single has been certified gold by the RIAA. Venue has a clear-bag policy. When: 7 p.m. Thursday, September 12 Where: Mesa Amphitheatre, 263 N. Center Street, Mesa Cost: Tickets start at $48 Info:

Arizona Margarita, Mojito, Craft Beer, and Food Truck Festival

The Music and the Message w/Elizabeth Smart

Gather your friends and get a cold margarita on the rocks—or a refreshing mojito or one for each hand. Grab a bite to eat at one of the many food trucks at the Arizona Margarita, Mojito, Craft Beer and Food Truck Festival. Plus, it is a dog-friendly event. This celebration just gets better and better. When: 4 to 10 p.m. Saturday, September 21 Where: Riverview Park, 2100 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Mesa Cost: $50 Info:

Maren Morris w/Hailey Whitters and Kassi Ashton

Maren Morris’ sophomore album, “Girl,” has shattered the record for the largest debut streaming week for a country album by a woman with 23.96 million streams in its first week. The album debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and continues to receive rave reviews. The album

Elizabeth Smart makes an appearance along with a concert by Roosevelt Sings and the Chandler Children’s Choir. Proceeds benefit Childhelp and Operation Underground Railroad. When: 7 p.m. Saturday, September 28 Where: Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main Street, Mesa Cost: $35 general admission; $65 reserved; $150 VIP Info:

Flogging Molly, Social Distortion w/The Devil Makes Three and Le Butcherettes

Quintessential Irish-American Celtic punk band Flogging Molly and legendary American punk rock band Social Distortion are teaming up for the ultimate summer tour. The venue has a clear-bag policy. When: 5:30 p.m. Sunday, September 29 Where: Mesa Amphitheatre, 263 N. Center Street, Mesa Cost: Tickets start at $49.50 Info:

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Amberwood Homes helps make dream homes a reality on the town

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When Billy Johnson, founder and president of Amberwood Homes, meets with new clients, he does not immediately launch into questions about what they are looking for in their dream home. “When I meet homeowners, they are always a little skeptical,” Johnson said. He prefers to joke with them for a bit and talk about other subjects first. “Once they are settled down and more relaxed, we can talk about the house, but I always let them bring the subject up,” he added. This client-centric and relaxed approach not only sets his company apart, it definitely seems to work. As Johnson noted, Amberwood Homes is one of the top custom home builders in the Valley. For new homeowners who want to build a custom luxury home anywhere comm. spotlight



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from Queen Creek to Cave Creek or Mesa out to the Estrellas, Johnson said they can count on him and his experienced team to help them bring their luxury home vision to life. “My job is to help give people ideas and put them down on paper, and then I’ll tell homeowners, ‘You give me a budget, and I’ll tell you how to stay in it.’ I have a lot of fun doing that,’” he said. “No one will build a better home for the dollar, so I try to convince people that while this is a huge investment for them, we have done this more than a few times and they will end up with a really nice home.” Johnson is a northern Alabama native who went into the military as young man. He was inspired to launch Amberwood Homes after he built a home. Soon after starting his business, John-

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Amberwood Homes founder and president Billy Johnson said no one else builds a better home for the dollar. (Photos courtesy Amberwood Homes)

son realized he loves meeting the new outdoor living spaces. homeowners and guiding them to the “Big garages are a big thing right now,” best luxury home for their needs. he said. “They can be about 2,500 square In fact, Johnson noted, when he cut feet on their own with air conditioning. back on his responsibilities with the Also, people could care less about a forcompany, he found semi-retirement mal dining room, but they do want a wasn’t for him. patio kitchen.” After sharing his feelings with one Large kitchens with “two of everyof his co-workers, she responded with, thing” including a pair of ovens and “Well then, why don’t you come back to Sub-Zero refrigerators are also popufeel and do what you love?’” lar, Johnson said. While he’s thrilled In the three-plus decades he has with Amberwood Homes’ success and worked with his clients, Johnson said he his happy clients, something else keeps has seen luxury home trends come and him motivated. go. These palatial homes can get into the “Anybody can say this, but can anyone 11,000-square-foot range. be honest about it: I love my work, I re“In the mid-’90s everyone was into ally do, and I really enjoy it.” 8-foot doors and Tuscan design,” he said. Amberwood Homes The 2000s brought a surge of oak 4320 E. Brown Road, floors, which he said “are now dead.” Suite 101, Mesa Today, many new homeowners are 480-832-8161, looking2018 for a large great room, as well as 2018 OF OF THE and fully functional THE extra-large garages



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